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Samuel Palmer. 1805-1881.

Christmas - Folding the Last Sheep. 1850. Etching. Lister 4.iv/v. 4 7/8 x 3 7/8 (sheet 11 3/8 x 8 3/8). Although etched in 1850, this plate remained unpublished during Samuel Palmer's lifetime. This proof is from the first issued edition, printed under the supervision of A.H.Palmer, the artist's son, and published for: Samuel Palmer, A Memoir, by A.H.Palmer 1882. Illustrated: Print Collector's Quarterly 3 (1913): 214. A richly-inked impression printed on pale cream laid paper. Stamped in the plate, and the inscription 'From Bampfylde's Sonnet'. $5,000.

This etching was inspired by lines from a sonnet by John Codrington Bampfylde (1754-1796):
Old Christmas comes, to close the wanéd year,
And aye the shepherd's heart to make right glad;
Who, when his teeming flocks are homeward had,
To blazing hearth repairs, and nut-brown beer....

The image shows a moonlit scene of a shepherd, accompanied by three young children and a dog, guiding the last of his flock of sheep into a wooden sheepfold beside a small thatched cottage standing to left of composition. The cottage door stands open, shedding light on the scene outside; inside, a woman lays the table for supper. Trees frame the composition to both left and right. Palmer cleverly juxtaposes silvery moonlight and glowing lamplight to make this one of his most successful etchings.

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